After getting a big 34-3 win over the North Carolina Tar Heels last Saturday, the Virginia Tech Hokies are on the road this week at the Syracuse Orange with a big Thursday Night showdown in Lane Stadium against the Miami Hurricanes looming in five days. The Hokies are heavy favorites in this matchup with the Orange, but they know that they can’t afford to overlook a Syracuse team that has some playmakers on offense.
For the Hokies, the goal has to be to take care of business and avoid any injuries so with that said, here’s are keys to the game for the Hokies.
Don’t Overlook Syracuse
While Syracuse is a 2-4 football team with their only wins coming against Connecticut and Colgate, the Hokies cannot afford to overlook a Syracuse team that has been able to put up some points at home this season. We’ve seen the Hokies overlook teams in the past and some disappointing losses happen including the 2014 and 2015 losses to East Carolina.
However, the Hokies seem to have a much-improved focus under Justin Fuente with his “go 1-0 every week” mentality that the players have seemed to buy into. We’ve already seen that twice this year with Virginia Tech blowing out Boston College and East Carolina in back-to-back weeks.
The big difference this week though is the fact that this game comes in between the Hokies’ most impressive win yet this season and the biggest game left on the schedule against Miami in five days. Fuente and his staff will have to make sure that this team is focused on the task at hand and not thinking ahead to a game that could decide the ACC Coastal depending on what also happens in Miami today.
If the Hokies can stay focused on Syracuse and not start looking ahead to Miami, Virginia Tech should comfortably win this game.
Snap the Ball Well
Last week, Virginia Tech had their fair share of issues with snaps whether it be bad snaps from the center, snaps coming too early, or long snaps that couldn’t be handled by the punter. Part of that has to be due to the conditions last week that made plenty of things difficult and led to a combined 10 fumbles between the two teams including 7 for the Hokies.
This week, the Hokies will be inside a dome and have a great chance to get back in a consistent rhythm snapping the ball ahead of a big showdown with Miami where avoiding unnecessary turnovers will be important.
Part of the issue was on long snaps between Colton Taylor and Mitchell Ludwig but Taylor has proven overall to be a reliable long snapper and this game should be a great opportunity for him to rebuild any confidence that they have been affected by last week’s tough conditions.
However, Eric Gallo knows that he needs to improve this week or else he could be back in a battle for his starting center job after he had some communication issues with Jerod Evans last week. Gallo and Evans haven’t gotten the most reps together but this game presents a very good opportunity for the pair to get exactly that ahead of next week’s showdown.
Gallo knows that Vance Vice and Justin Fuente will be looking for a much-improved and turnover-free performance from their center this week and if that doesn’t happen, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Kyle Chung get first team reps in this game or jump ahead of Gallo on the depth chart.
Stay Healthy and Let Young Guys Play
While the Hokies can’t afford to overlook this Syracuse team, there is no doubt that Justin Fuente and his staff must make sure that he keeps his best players healthy while taking advantage of this potentially being a great opportunity to get some younger players some playing time that hopefully won’t be needed in big games but could in case of injuries.
With Isaiah Ford having an ankle issue last week against UNC, the Hokies would be smart to significantly limit his play in the second half if the Hokies have a big lead and get guys like Jaylen Bradshaw and Divine Deablo some playing time on the outside. Ford didn’t make the Hokies’ injury report this week but being conservative with the Hokies’ best player only makes sense.
If the Hokies can get a margin, Virginia Tech would be smart to get young defensive ends like Trevon Hill and Houshun Gaines lots of reps in the second half knowing how big of a part of the future they are on the edge along with getting backup offensive linemen like Braxton Pfaff, Parker Osterloh, and Tyrell Smith playing time.
However, this is all contingent on the Hokies taking care of business early and putting themselves in position to let the young guys get a lot of playing time in the second half. This is likely the Hokies’ best chance to get young guys playing time for a few weeks but it will be contingent on whether the Hokies avoid overlooking Syracuse.